Is the past going to haunt India again? The ghosts of 2014 where they ended up with a demoralizing series defeat after a draw in the first Test at Trent Bridge was followed by an inspiring win at Lord’s. Then, it all went south for India in the third Test in Southampton. Similar to that tour, India have had a false start to their third Test today. In fact, so worse that they need a miracle to get out of this or even be happier of the two sides if the Test was to end in a draw.
A complete meltdown of the batting unit saw India collapse to a paltry 78 after electing to bat first. The centurion from Lord’s, KL Rahul departed for a duck in the first over. Soon followed by a misery-struck Cheteshwar Pujara, who poked at an out-swinger by Anderson. Anderson was relentless as he bagged the Indian skipper, Virat Kohli for 7 and had the better of the batsman for the seventh time in Tests. Just when Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit were rebuilding, Rahane cued one off Ollie Robinson’s out-swinger to Jos Buttler at the stroke of Lunch. India were five down in just three overs after lunch when Rishabh Pant chased a wide one. The Indian batsmen followed like a parade after Pant’s dismissal. The two heroes of Lord’s, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah both were packed off for a first-ball duck. India from 56 for three were all-out for 78 in the first 15 overs of the second session.
In reply, the England openers have laid a firm base by cutting down the deficit and staying unseparated at the end of the day's play. With the weather forecast dry for the rest of the Test, England are in an authoritative position to level this series. Irrespective of the conditions, a massive lead looms over India. The lead is not the only threat for India. In recent times and historically, Headingley has produced some fascinating chases. There are four occasions of over 300 runs being chased down successfully at Headingley, two of which came in the span of the last four years.
Only five times, a team has gone on to win after conceding a lead and the highest lead conceded to win is 227 by England in 1981. This was when England went on to win after following on. The other was in the last match that took place at Headingley. England were all-out for 67 in the first innings, but chased down 359 to resurrect themselves. In this century, only one match has ended up as a draw at Headingley.
A SILVER LINING FOR INDIA
For the rest of the Test, things appear to be dark and gloomy for India. However, there is a thin ray of sunlight that peeps through. The pitch at Headingley has been good for the bowlers on the second day. Since 2015 in Tests, day two has seen 46 wickets at an average of 25.9 and a balls/dismissal ratio of 52.9. Among venues which has seen two or more matches, this bowling average is the second-best.
As another positive stat, Joe Root, who has been the tormentor for India in this series has a paltry average of 35.8 in 12 innings at Headingley. In only two other venues Root averages less than 45 at home. The odds and the current situation are certainly against India. But, miracles do happen and India need one badly in this Test.